Philip Knight Wrigley, the owner of the Chicago Cubs and the head of the Wrigley chewing gum company, is an extremely shy man. Although he has served as a club president longer than anyone now in the National League, he has received less publicity than the rankest newcomer. As far as Phil Wrigley is concerned, that's fine. He boasts that he was the first competing owner to get through a World Series unphotographed, and he later reaffirmed his passion for virtual anonymity by declining to pose for a color portrait for FORTUNE. He never has been on radio or television, and he has given only two public speeches in his life, both of which plunged him into cold sweat. Two years ago the Chicago Tribune, which proclaims itself to be "The World's Greatest Newspaper" and does business right across Michigan Avenue from Wrigley, was so slap-happy about an interview with Wrigley that the editors unblushingly put a special copyright on their coup. And well they might have, for at times Wrigley's desire for privacy becomes so overwhelming that he bemoans his own name.
The man whose name and product have passed every American's lips at one time or another since the turn of the century hates to be called P.K., insisting that the famous brand of gum was named not for him but for the capital letters in the slogan, "Packed tight, Kept right." The very name Wrigley makes him writhe. "He hates to carry a product name around," says a business associate. "He's not an identity. He's a gum." When Wrigley bought the Wilmington Transportation Company, he changed the name to Catalina Island Steamship Lines. He felt that people would think the block W on the steamers that plied between the California mainland and the luxurious weekend spot stood for Wrigley.
"My ambition is to go live in a cave somewhere with no telephone and roll a big rock over the door," Philip Wrigley, now 63 years old and the best-known unknown man in the realms of sports and business, morosely told SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. His ambition becomes somewhat more understandable when one realizes that the Cubs have finished deep in the second division of the National League for the last 11 straight years.
In many ways Wrigley is the exact opposite of his father, the late William Wrigley Jr. Known as one of the greatest hucksters of his time, William Wrigley Jr. was a complete extrovert who would smile for a photographer two blocks away. He got into the chewing gum business by a roundabout route. A soap salesman in unwashed Chicago, he gave away baking powder as a come-on. When the call for baking powder exceeded the demand for soap, he switched to selling baking powder and offered boxes of gum as the come-on. When the clamor for gum outstripped the market for baking powder, he jumped into the gum business and made a fortune.
Philip Knight Wrigley (call him Phil, not P.K.) was born in Chicago on December 5, 1894. Almost from birth he was raised to assume responsibility. When he was 5, he listened to his father expound on selling and people. "Phil worshiped his father," says a friend. "He has always attempted to live up to him." As a boy he was shy and withdrawn. He went away to Andover to prepare for Yale, but he did poorly even though his father hired a tutor. He left Andover in 1914, a year before graduation. An avid crapshooter at school, he says that he learned one thing: "When the dice are against you, there's nothing you can do about it. I suppose in many ways it's like baseball. Sometimes you can't do anything wrong, and sometimes you can't do anything right."
Determined to prove himself, he asked his father to send him to Australia to set up a new plant. "I guess it was a success," he says. "It's still running." Upon his return home he enrolled at the University of Chicago just to take a course in chemistry. Nevertheless, he says he was listed for years as a graduate, and he is now of the belief that Robert Hutchins removed his name from this august list after he refused to give money for a dormitory. (Hutchins says: "I don't recall having any financial discussions with Mr. Wrigley. However, if he thinks I could have removed his name from the list of graduates, he has a highly exaggerated impression of my power.")
During World War I, Wrigley served in the Navy. He rose from the ranks (he was a machinist's mate) and became a lieutenant (jg) and superintendent of the school of aviation mechanics at Great Lakes Naval Training Station. While in the Navy he married Helen Blanche Atwater of Garden City on Long Island. They have three children, of whom William, the youngest and only son, is the heir presumptive to the Cubs if not the chewing gum empire. Bill, 25, is currently helping to write a brochure to attract youngsters to baseball.
The Wrigley family interest in the Cubs goes back to 1916 when William Wrigley Jr. first bought stock in the club. Phil Wrigley began buying stock on his own in 1926—a fact not often recognized by sportswriters who accuse him of lacking interest—and in 1929 joined the board of directors. He acquired his father's shares upon his death in 1932, but he didn't assume the presidency until two years later. "I finally decided I'd be president of the Cubs because I got all the blame anyway," he says.
From the first, Wrigley's ideas about baseball have been radical. He aggressively promoted Ladies' Day and children's tickets despite cries of anguish from his fellow owners. He followed his father's lead in broadcasting—during the '20s the Cubs had as many as five stations carrying the games at one time—reasoning that coverage would create fans, particularly among women. In 1938 he hired Professor Coleman Roberts Griffith, director of the Bureau of Institutional Research at the University of Illinois, to test the physical characteristics and reflexes of the Cubs. "It was a coincidence that he was the head of the psychology department," Wrigley says.
Professor Griffith and his associates moved into the park with tape measures and movie cameras. The Cubs, aroused by the press, regarded him as something worse than a Japanese spy. Wrigley laments the reception accorded the professor. "If you want to make the best knives in the world, you buy the finest steel," Wrigley says. "But you can go out and spend $250,000 for a ballplayer and he may not cut butter. That's one reason I got Professor Griffith. We figured if we could measure the physical characteristics and reflexes of established ballplayers, we could test prospects and know what to look for. If you know what makes a player who does come through in the majors, you have something. It's surprising how many players can play Triple-A but not make the majors. Everybody said we were crazy. We were too far ahead of the times.